Being short his entire life, South junior Jeremiah Hudspeth was raised to never waiver in self-confidence.
He plays basketball, at 5-foot-7, like everyone else on the court told him he could not play. For however long he is in the game, it’s a non-stop crusade to prove he belongs.
So when the ball was reversed to the top of the key and Hudspeth was left open from 22 feet away with the last seconds of Tuesday’s game against Kapaun Mount Carmel dwindling, of course he didn’t hesitate to rise and deliver.
And, in his mind, at least, of course the ball found the bottom of the net.
The chutzpah of Hudspeth forced overtime, where the Titans carried over the momentum and ran away with a 71-59 victory over Kapaun, the No. 2-ranked team in Class 5A by the coaches association.
“It felt good before I even touched the ball,” said Hudspeth, who finished with seven points off the bench. “I could feel it in me that it was going in. My motto is always heart over height at all times, and I’ve got a whole lot of heart. A whole lot of heart.”
The shot reversed what was close to becoming an excellent road win for Kapaun (6-2), which had to absorb a superb offensive performance by South (8-3) and counter with one of its own.
Kapaun regained its swagger near the end of the third quarter, as back-to-back catch-and-shoot threes by Thomas O’Connor erased South’s lead and handed it to Kapaun, 50-48, entering the final period.
The fourth quarter featured three lead changes and four ties, although Kapaun held favorable position when reserve Cody Hope drilled two free throws for a 57-54 lead with 36 seconds left.
That’s when Hudspeth changed the game’s course in one shot.
“We just didn’t execute,” Kapaun coach John Cherne said. “We’ve been stressing blocking out, limiting second-chance opportunities, and to run our stuff. We didn’t do a very good job of that tonight.”
The overtime quickly became South’s, as its defense squeezed Kapaun for eight straight empty possessions and won the extra period 14-2. The Titans collected a 34-25 edge rebounding, including nine offensive rebounds, made 50.9 percent of its shots and forced Kapaun into 13 turnovers.
Matt Donart led all scorers with 16 points off the bench, while Darren Lewis added 14 points and seven rebounds, and Dawson Gunter scored 14 points and handed out five assists.
“We were careful and patient on offense,” South coach Charles Gunter said. “We valued possessions and it paid off.”
South has now pieced together back-to-back strong performances, upending a ranked Derby squad last week at Koch Arena and now handing Kapaun just its second loss.
The resurgence has been from foundation of belief, much like how Hudspeth believes in himself. Except its a bond shared by everyone on the Titans and they don’t care who’s behind them now.
“Before the season, I don’t think we had any support outside of the team,” Gunter said. “That brought us all together and now we’re playing together as one.”
Kapaun: O’Connor 12, Cherne 14, Monty 8, Patton 9, Ocker 4, Lickteig 8, Hickerson 2, Hope 2.
South: Turner 4, Gunter 14, Griffin 9, Lee 6, Lewis 14, Donart 15, Hudspeth 7, Harris 2.